Monday, August 12, 2013

...the finder cannot unsee once it has been seen. ~ Vladimir Nabokov, Speak Memory

I quite like this comparison of Shanghai over a period of 27 years of unbridled growth which was published in the Atlantic.  To me it sums up quite neatly humanity's voracious consumption of the natural world, turning it by increments into a monstrous, hellacious death trap.  It's especially compelling since Shanghai has been setting new records for hot temperatures on a daily basis.
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One of the most difficult things about becoming aware of the converging catastrophes that are lurching inexorably towards a great convulsion (at least, for me) is the guilt of having been inextricably responsible - or, to put it another way, to realize after that first passion of activism and outrage, that's it's impossible to escape being complicit.  Compromises and hypocrisies follow me like a cloud of internal recrimination.  I'm trying hard to have pity on myself and everyone else too.  One way is to find some bathos in the absurdities that render our best intentions ineffectual.  Take the story about surfers who are shocked and dismayed to find trash fouling places they expected to be pristine, in Indonesia. 
One whose reminiscences are linked in that article expresses his disgust with the captain of his tour boat, who chain smokes cigarettes and drops the butts into the water.
He recounts this without a trace of self-reflection about the pollution the fuel for the boat he chartered has created - never mind the far worse emissions from the plane he rode half-way around the world.
Today Wit's End is going to be considerably more depressing than usual.  Impossible, you say?  In a comment to my last post, about the horrible accident last Sunday in which a mother and her unborn child were killed by a falling tree, Catman left a link about two children who had been seriously injured in Georgia.  I looked for a followup and accidentally found news of another child not far away, who was hit by a falling branch last fall.  I wonder how many of these tragedies are happening around the country and the world, in isolation...with nobody putting it together as being the inevitable result when so many trees - all of them, really - are dying from absorbing pollution.

Here are their stories.  These are real people - like my friend who was died when a branch hit him in the face in the aftermath of Sandy - whose lives have been ruined...and they have no idea why.  People mostly don't realize that trees have become lethal threats - because they never used to be.  As the full fury of climate change and a collapsing ecosystem are unleashed, many more heartbreaks will become a tsunami of unalleviated grief.  But somehow these tiny individual children make it seem so much more real than statistics of dozens and hundreds already being lost in floods and fires.

Children Injured By Falling Tree in Walton County
myfoxatlanta

Tree falls, lands on 2 children
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Two children were seriously injured when a tree fell on them Friday night in Walton County.
The 4-year-old boy and 3-year-old girl, believed to be siblings, were on a riding toy when the tree fell, hitting them both, Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman said.
The two were flown separately by helicopter to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, where the boy was in critical condition and the girl in fair condition late Friday.
I’m told that this tree was dead and rotting,” Chapman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The boy was unconscious after being struck, Chapman said. The girl was alert and crying, he said.
The children, who were visiting family on Wagon Trail, near Loganville, were injured around 8:15 p.m. as they played outside, Chapman said. The two live in Stone Mountain, he said.

Next is the story of a little boy named Tripp, who was injured last fall.  There is a facebook page where his mother writes frequently of what the family is experiencing.  Her sincerity and her hope in spite of her overwhelming anxiety and grief are so poignant to read, that I've copied some of her entries.  There are many, many more.
Critical days ahead for toddler hit by tree limb
With his spiked blond hair, blue eyes and constant smile, 2-year-old Tripp Halstead is used to attention, even from strangers. He loves having his picture taken so much, he’s been known to jump into other’s people’s pictures.
“People are drawn to him,” his father, Bill Halstead, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “What you see in the pictures is 100 percent him. He’s second to none.”
But never has the attention meant as much as it does now, as Tripp lies in critical condition in a bed at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. Tuesday night marked 24 hours since the toddler underwent brain surgery, hours after being struck by a falling tree limb while at his Winder daycare center.
It was a freak accident on an unusually windy day. But it left the ever-happy Barrow County boy fighting for his life, and his parents and other family members praying for a miracle.
“He’s doing fairly well,” Halstead said by phone Tuesday night. “Most of the doctors seem to be happy with where he’s at.”
Wednesday afternoon brought another small sigh of relief, when the pressure around Tripp’s brain dropped, his family said.
Still, Tripp is by no means out of danger, and his family is learning to take his recovery hour by hour, minute by minute.
“The next couple days are extremely critical to us,” Halstead said.
Doctors are constantly monitoring Tripp for bruising and swelling in his head as he recovers from the surgery that lasted more than three hours. It’s an emotional process of waiting, and Tripp’s parents and relatives have remained at the hospital every minute.
Halstead said he and his wife, Stacy, have been overwhelmed with the support and words of sympathy they continue to receive, even from strangers. Halstead has turned to Facebook to update friends on Tripp’s recovery.
“Thank you again to everyone, it is amazing how loved and cared for we all feel right now,” Halstead posted Tuesday night.
Halstead has also posted pictures of his son taken at the hospital. He’s holding his prized Lightning McQueen toy, but Tripp’s usual, toothy grin is missing. His family clings to the hope the little boy with the huge personality will recover.
A Facebook page titled “Tripp Halstead Updates” was set up so Halstead can keep the old and new friends updated of changes in Tripp’s condition.
A fund has been established to assist the Halstead with any costs associated with Tripp’s medical care. Donations can be made at any PNC bank branch in Tripp Halstead’s name.

This is Tripp's mom's summary of the incident as recounted on the TeemBoom4Trip website:

Dr's don't know everything, but to be told Tripp is the only child I would ever carry inside me, make this accident even worse. I couldn't imagine losing my one perfect miracle. So we are so thankful that he is still with us. No matter what condition he is in. The Dr's still won't tell us how far he will go. They just say with this much brain damage, most children don't survive. So that is why we pray every minute of everyday. No one knows what he will be able to accomplish. 
Some of you might not even know what happened the day of the accident...Oct 29, 2012. He was playing on the playground at daycare and a huge limb fell out of a very high tree. It fell on his head and crushed his skull into many pieces. They took him to Winder-Barrow hospital and then flew him to Egleston Childrens hospital in Atlanta. As Bill and I were driving to meet him in Atlanta, I don't think we spoke 10 words to each other. We were scared and we just prayed. We honestly didn't know how bad it was. 
As soon as we got there, they let us see him. He looked perfect. No blood, no cuts, he looked so peaceful. Then the Dr started telling us how bad it was, and it took me some time to realize they were saying he could die. It was a slice to my heart and soul. So the next few hours after that were a total blur. When I dropped my happy, perfect boy off at daycare that morning, it might of been the last time I saw his smile or his eyes open or him awake. I will never take another day with my baby for granted. 
So he survived surgery, then the next 24 hours and made it til Friday. Then he took a turn for the worst and they told us to say our goodbyes. That was the worst day of my life. To think he had survived this and then given no hope. But Tripp proved them wrong, he is a fighter and he pulled through and we have never looked back. He spent 5 full months in the hospital. He is at home now and even though he is making babysteps, he is moving forward. 
I cherish every moment with him. He is my whole world and I want him to know how much he is loved. I didn't want this post to be all sad, I wanted everyone to know how important every single day is with your loved ones, hug them, kiss them, let them know how special they are to you. Even if Tripp hadn't pulled through, I can honestly say there wasn't one single day of his life that he wasn't hugged on, kissed on and told "I love you". He is a very special boy and thank you all for loving him too.

Following is her facebook update yesterday.  It is devastating to learn that the agony continues unabated, and her bravery is undiminished.

Stacy: Just asking for a few extra prayers tonight. Tripp is really having a rough night. The Benadryl that I thought would knock him out like it did this afternoon hasn't done a thing. He won't stop moaning and crying. His heart rate is high so that alarm is going off and his oxygen level keeps dropping so that alarm is going off. I have given him everything that I safely can. Bill and I have been laying together in the twin bed next to Tripp just watching and trying to figure out what is the problem and how can we fix it. Bill held him through most of the Cars movie, it was on TV tonight, but he never relaxed in his arms. Then I put him on his stomach on the therapy table like last night when he slept so good, that didn't work. He is now in his own bed twisting and turning. All parents know how incredibly hard it is to watch your child hurt, especially when you can't figure out how to fix it!!! We are going to try giving him oxygen. He never looks really sick till we have to give him oxygen. It just brings back all the memories of trying to just keep him alive after the accident. Pray this works, I just don't know what to do. It will be a long night, but our nurse will be here at 8am so hopefully she can help figure out what is wrong and if we need to go to the dr. Ok... Be right back, gotta hook up the oxygen machine. 
Maybe that was exactly what he needed. His heart rate is going down and his oxygen is going up. Still not at 100 percent which is odd with the machine, but def better. Then you have to wonder, what is causing him to have trouble breathing?? I swear the questions never end and your heart never stops breaking. Ok, I am going to get off the computer and do some praying of my own. Love you all.

While we're on the subject of shattered lives, Werner Herzog has made a powerful documentary, meant as a cautionary tale to warn of the consequences of texting while driving.  I wonder if it wouldn't seem to be just as important to warn people of the inevitable "collateral" damage from driving cars without texting - accidents and pollution??   Nah...

9 comments:

  1. The 'after' picture of Shanghai looks like a sci-fi city. Then again, we are very nearly living in a Blade Runner world.

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  2. Such tragedy in society. Trees poisoned by pollution, tress falling and harming children and other citizens. Add the many children killed by air pollution or given what amounts to a kick in the throat asthma attack. Is there not a better way to conduct ourselves?
    Thanks, Gail, for you diligent updates.

    David Lange

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  3. I always have been more concerned by the "wounded" than by the dead. In any war, accident, tree falling, bomb explosion, etc., there is always MUCH more wounded that dead. All we know about them is their number (like in: 10 dead, 70 wounded) which means a million of different but often extremely difficult conditions for the "survivors". Branches falling are going to cause extremely serious injuries. I wish I would die rather than be gravely injured (personally).

    I am always trying to understand why the "others" do not see what I see: trees dying everywhere since many years and being in such a dire visible condition. One of the reasons is certainly that trees are so elegant in decay and death, proud to the very end, not stench, no blood. They are doing everything to hide their demise and never loose composure in front of the degenerated egotistical maniacs that we are as a group. The maples around my house still look kind of ok if they stay in ones periphereal vision. But the leaves are full of holes! The city did cut a lot of branches during the summer. How can those people whom it is the trade to take care of trees not see? and/or continue to act as if nothing is happening. It is beyond me.

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  4. I had dinner at my neighbor's farm last night. She is in her 70's and lives in the same Colonial clapboard house where she grew up. She is widowed, has 10 grandchildren and 1 grandchild so far. She's a really nice person, lives a very simple life, and said a prayer before we ate. A few years ago she finally gave up spraying the huge old elm that covered the house and had it cut down. She replaced it with a maple which is now about 25 feet high, and last night when we were outside at the grill she mentioned how upset she is that something is wrong with it. The leaves are mottled and shriveling up, and they are falling off so much that the lawn underneath is completely hidden. She thought maybe it was because her son-in-law sprayed the patio for weeds. You can't see another building from her house other than those that comprise the farm - barns and sheds - just fields and woods and the pond. Hundreds of trees. I didn't mention to her that every single one of them is in the exact same condition as her maple. What's the point? It will just make her miserable to see.

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  5. That's what we're doing gail, lying to ourselves by omission. We don't talk about it because it isn't going to stop anyway, so . . .
    We're always so complicit in it too - that's a hard lesson to learn and most refuse to see what we're doing because this rapacious world is so alluring, attractive, and "cool" until you wake up and SEE (grok) that it isn't what it seems, then down the rabbit hole you go . . . ending up at NTE.

    Thanks for your words and work gail.

    Tom

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  6. Can I use your comment space to rant a bit? I work with someone who is a FREAKING MORON. She loves hot weather, really hot weather, the extreme heat/smog alert type of hot weather, the type that actually kills people. Therefore, in her mind, global warming is a good thing, because it means more of that weather. And she just doesn't care about its effects on plant & animal species or what it means for the future. (I don't know where she thinks her food comes from.) All of that is irrelevant. What matters to her is whether she can wear sundresses and enjoy hot nights on her balcony.

    And yet her views are typical. People think *I'm* the weirdo for even mentioning the downsides of global warming. They certainly aren't thinking AT ALL of changing a single thing about their way of life to maybe prepare for/mitigate what's coming. (They don't believe it's coming.)

    So, we're toast. Thanks stupid people!

    ReplyDelete
  7. 18 August 2013 Last updated at 13:15 ET

    European forests near 'carbon saturation point'

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23712464#

    The word 'ozone' doesn't appear in this article.

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  8. Thanks Catman! I have been on a retreat without much access to internet - I'll check it out.

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  9. That Shanghai now-and-then... only 27 years? That's incredible. All this stuff has just crept into our lives, and as your URL points out, it's not possible to 'unsee' it. Is it possible to get enough people to see it? In time? Probably not, as we're already out of time. The thing about the 'texting while driving' risk reminds me of how I was ridiculed in the early days of the Internet for expressing my belief that using a mobile phone while driving was stupid; I imagine that a great many of the folks with whom I was 'communicating' (sic) took umbrage because they did it all the time. Soon thereafter, it became illegal to do so in the UK (but stupid folks still do it).

    ReplyDelete

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